Last week, I visited Dresden for the first time.
Although I will return as a tourist (it’s a fantastic city, but more on that later), I was there to meet Dr Karim Tabiti – Chief Executive Officer at Biotype Diagnostic – a molecular diagnostic SME with innovative technology and expectations for growth that is making Dresden a destination for top talent in the biotech space.
On meeting Karim, an industry expert who previously spent 10 years with Roche, I was greeted with a warm handshake and a pleasant welcome to Biotype’s 1,000 sq. m headquarters.
It immediately struck me that the facilities on show are fantastic and certainly not typical of many 50-person companies I have visited before..
Biotype have the technical ability of some of the biggest companies in diagnostics
Biotype have renovated a historical building into a state-of-the-art facility with impressive labs, manufacturing, production and spacious offices – all under one roof. Having visited countless companies over the years, I can confirm what they have is up with the best.
It's a refreshing change from the cost-cutting options we see as standard in lots of organisations.
But it’s not just the HQ that impresses. It’s the people and the technology. Incidentally the two main ingredients required to succeed as an SME in the biotech space.
The entrance to Biotype's Dresden HQ
The products are excellent. The technology is the QIAGEN-developed Modaplex platform. It’s allowing them to exploit a huge diagnostic gap in the market, bridging the gap between traditional qPCR and NGS. The Modaplex allows them to combine Capillary electrophoresis (CE) with standard qPCR to provide highly complex tests. The result is a more affordable option for diagnosis without compromising on quality.
And this lower cost could be the main point here. Yes, clinical NGS is exciting but what is most important? For me, it’s making diagnosis available far and wide at a reasonable cost and making sure people are receiving treatment quickly –which NGS doesn’t currently allow. The ambition to make NGS accessible to all is, in my opinion, idealistic. In an ideal world, yes, but unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.
Dr Tabiti knows this too. He’s worked in the industry for many years and is an expert in his field.
On clinical NGS he commented:
“You just have a tremendous complexity. This is, now, more used in a research environment. This is more for discovery. There are people who say this will be routine diagnostic. I don't believe that's going to be true”.
We have seen trends before: Chip Technology, Digital PCR, Sequencing, etc. As well as the prohibitive cost, there are also very few diseases where you really need the level of complexity offered by NGS. In short, in makes things tremendously expensive. Thousands of dollars per test expensive.
Dr Tabiti agrees:
“It's [clinical NGS] not going to become a routine diagnostic tool. There is no way on earth that is going to happen.”
So, Biotype aren’t following the current NGS trend. But they still have “beautiful technology”.
That was the description given to me by Joeri Kint, Head of Product Management B2B. And whilst beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the potential and the capabilities of their technology and diagnostic platforms are impossible to ignore. Furthermore, Joeri is ex-MSD and knows the importance of investment and technology. Biotype have managed to acquire a technology that has received close to $100M of investment. This puts them in a unique position as a 50-person company with such technology.
Dr Tabiti added:
“I think the beauty of this company is that…we have everything; we can offer everything that QIAGEN or Roche can offer.
We have manufacturing facilities, we have all departments that you would need under one roof. We also just opened a site in the U.S. We hired the first two people in the U.S and we also have all processes of a large company, but we're still a small company and people can influence the whole success of the company.
Whatever you do, you can directly see the impact of what you're doing.”
The synergy between C-Level and the other departments is clear to see. Their offices are close together and so is the shared vision. When asking Dr Kathleen Clauβ – Key Account Manager B2B – if Biotype can establish itself as a major technology provider, she confidently replied:
“Yes. We believe in the technology”.
This sums up the organisation. Well-oiled, ambitious, and on the same page. You can feel that in the atmosphere when walking around the place.
Dr Tabiti joined Biotype just over 2 years ago. He was hired by owner Dr William Zörgiebel to help realise his ambitious growth plans for the company. A serial entrepreneur, described to me as a “visionary”, Dr Zörgiebel tasked him with taking Biotype to the next level.
It’s safe to say that ambition has been realised. The company have enjoyed significant growth since he took over and are now being recognised for their quality of product and service through partnerships with some of the biggest Contract Research Organisations in the world.
But whilst a vision, strong leadership and best-in-class facilities help, that’s not enough on its own to make a company a success in molecular diagnostics. It’s the technology that does that, and everyone I met at Biotype was passionate about theirs.
Aside from what we’d already discussed I asked him: why would someone want to join Biotype?
“[At Biotype] you have the best of both worlds. You’re not in a start-up environment, or an environment where things aren’t available, or the experience isn’t there.
However, on the other hand, the company isn’t so big that you’re lost in processes or you don’t oversee the entirety of what you’re doing.”
That means every new hire with the business has a huge part to play in the future of the company.
“ I think that’s the real fun of it. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Biotype now”
said Dr Tabiti - making it clear Biotype is an exciting place to be.
As well as being impressed with Biotype, I was blown away by Dresden.
It’s a wonderful city with great architecture, fantastic local vineyards, and many great restaurants. You can spend hours meandering through the cobbled streets, finding pop up bars and great food along the way. Property is affordable, work/life balance is encouraged, and (surprisingly) you can expect 30-degree summers. Dr Kint summed it up well, “it's just fantastic to live here."
For those that love the great outdoors it provides amazing countryside on your doorstep and the quite breath-taking Bastei.
The Bastei Rock Formation
But if you want to stay in the city then you can also enjoy the opera, local wines, and architecture.
On a personal level, I got the feeling that I was visiting a company with a singular vision and that everyone in their Dresden HQ was working toward the same end goal for the company. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have a real sense of ownership over their work and knew they were having a positive impact on the direction of the business.
That collective ownership combined with the sense of individual responsibility felt like an exciting combination.
The time I spent exploring made me think of the city as an expanding, cosmopolitan place with a great future. Perhaps that’s why everyone I spoke to from Biotype felt so at home there.
I’m sure that both have a bright future ahead.
At Charlton Morris, we’re helping Biotype with their growth, and are currently looking to hire a Head of Operations. If you’d like to know any more about the work we’re doing, or have any questions about the role or Biotype, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn or over email at firstname.lastname@example.org.